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Congratulations to 2014 M.Ed. Graduates in Belize!

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

2014 M.Ed. Graduates in Belize

Eleven students in the second cohort of the Masters of Education (M.Ed.) in Secondary Education program in Belize earned their degrees in December.  

Through the program, secondary faculty at the Watson College partner with faculty at Galen University in Belize to offer a graduate level course of study for teachers in Belize. The Watson College signed an agreement with Galen University to establish the program in 2012. WCE professors teach half of the courses, and Galen professors teach the other half. The partnership enables teachers in Belize to pursue a graduate degree in education, an option which would otherwise not be available to them. Faculty and students say the collaboration has been highly successful.

Angelique Ayuso ’13M, who was valedictorian when the first cohort graduated in December 2013, expressed gratitude for “the Galen vision” and said the partnership between the universities was “a prototype of the future of education in a rapidly globalizing world.” She encouraged fellow graduates to “dare to step in the light and assume leadership positions” and to “champion a cause for the improvement of education in our nation” because “this is what both Galen and the University of North Carolina Wilmington have prepared us for.”

WCE professor Robert Smith said the dual M.Ed. program is a wonderful example of the way online learning can be used to enhance education.

“Distance learning is often offered as a convenience for students but it can be much more,” Smith said. “The Galen partnership gives a deserving group of teachers in a developing country with limited resources access to the knowledge and resources of the faculty at UNCW.”

Smith taught a Secondary School Organization course in the M.Ed. program over the past two summers. He introduced Theodore R. Sizer’s Horace’s Compromise, The Dilemma of the American High School, a book in which the author argues that American students are trained to be passive recipients of knowledge rather than engaged learners. After students read the book, Smith asked them to compare schools in Belize and the U.S.

“It’s important to apply a broader perspective when reflecting upon the educational systems in our own countries,” Smith said.

Smith was impressed with the insights students offered in their final papers. Many, like Judith Meglar, shared personal stories in their reflections on the educational opportunities available to students.

Meglar, a primary school teacher for 10 years, grew up in a refugee community in Belize after her parents fled their home country of El Salvador during a civil war. One of seven children, she was fortunate that her parents placed a high value on formal education. Many peers grew up in families with “more pressing needs,” in a country whose economy was still largely agricultural, she wrote.

Still, Meglar could relate to the passive students described by Sizer. It was only when she began study at the university level and work as a teacher that she became a more engaged and curious learner, she said.

The education system in Belize has grown and improved since the country gained independence in 1981, but the country still has a ways to go to develop a population “educated to fit in to this global competitive economy,” she wrote. A passionate educator, Meglar said she is committed to helping develop a more equitable system that ensures “all children have the same access as others to qualified teachers, high-quality curriculum and well-resourced classrooms.”

Meglar graduated from the joint M.Ed. program in Secondary Education in December. Her final reflection paper can be viewed here

Galen University is a private university that was founded in 2003.

The Watson College of Education has developed an interactive, multi-level relationship with educators in Belize, since San Pedro, Belize became a sister city of Wilmington in 2007. In addition to the partnership with Galen University, WCE faculty works in collaboration and partnership with Isla Bonita Primary School, the Belize Ministry of Education, San Pedro High School, San Pedro Junior College and the University of Belize.